From late goals to missed penalties, from underdog upsets to disappointing draws, from fantastic finishes to passionate passes and everything in between, the 2016 Euros have been nothing short of entertaining.
The tournament has been full of drama since the first whistle, but this exciting event has been marred by fan violence from day one. Fans have been clashing with each other and French police since the beginning of the Euros. These clashes have caused 5 countries to be officially charged by UEFA.
Russia has already faced a large fine, and could be disqualified from the tournament if their fans continue to cause trouble. Meanwhile, Croatia’s fate will be decided on Monday with some of their players fearing they could be sent home, due to their fans throwing flares on the field during their match against Czech Republic. Belgium, Hungary and Portugal have been formally charged as well.
For me, and many around the world, soccer is an international language. It is a sport that has the ability to bring people together for the simple love of the game. Soccer (football) is one of the most widely followed sports in the world and the Euros this year are a perfect of example of pride and passion, with 24 countries competing. Some people were skeptical of the expansion to 24 teams this year, but the level of play that some smaller countries have brought with them has been a pleasure to watch. When you get the opportunity to watch Iceland tie Portugal in their first ever major tournament, that is special.
So let me say this bluntly; I don’t care what country you support, which players or which club. I care that you respect your fellow fans who are there to support the same sport you claim to love. To the fans who have caused violence in the streets and stadiums of France, you have no place being there. To the fans who have been wrongly affected by this violence, I am sorry.
If you are willing to risk the athlete’s safety, the safety of fans around you and the integrity of the game for the sake of your own rowdy experience, you are not a true fan. The game of soccer is loved and respected all around the world, to demoralize it with violence is simply unacceptable. You have altered the experience of other fans who have travelled from close and far to be there. You have altered the experience of the players who you claim to support.
For many of these players, it has been their dream to compete on this stage. They are there, they are ready. Will you stand with them or will you continue to disgrace them?
For the love of the game, stop the violence.